I know Warren Buffet has said multiple times, “Never ask a barber if you need a haircut” but this estate planning attorney believes that almost everyone needs a will, and to boot, I think most people should see a qualified attorney to draft the proper documents. The need stems from the basic premise that most people do not know what they don’t know when it comes to the topic of estate planning.
A Few Issues that May be Overlooked When Creating An Online Will
I think it is safe to say that most people that are creating a will using an online service probably are not in the estate tax world (think at least $2,000,000 in New York but in other States could be as low as $675,000 and as high as $5mil+ which is also the Federal Estate Tax Exemption Amount), so I will ignore those issues. Notwithstanding, there are a multitude of issues that a layperson is likely just not to think about, and thus, could put their testamentary intent at risk:
- Understanding ownership issues – even before drafting a Will, one must understand ownership and beneficiary issues. Not all assets are probatable.
- Guardianship – It is natural to name a married couple, however, what if the couple is to divorce? prior to the execution of the Will, but prior to an update?
- Guardianship – I have seen numerous examples of naming two people that don’t live in the same state. Well, what happens when there is a disagreement about who the child is going to live with? It doesn’t even have to be an extreme multi-state issue, but anytime two people are named who aren’t under the same roof.
- Trusts – I think it is pretty safe to say most people do not understand to what extent a trust can and should be used. Money can do good things and money can do very bad things, and as such, it is imperative to understand how you as a Testator can protect a possible beneficiary from him or herself.
- Second Marriage Issues – Lets say A and B are married and both have adult children from previous marriages. Both Wills say to my loving spouse and then my children. Well, when A dies first and leaves everything to B, it is only going to her children unless she previously adopted A’s children.
- Special Needs Issues – If you have a child with special needs planning YOU NEED TO SEE AN ATTORNEY.
- Business Owner – “All assets to my children equally” – what if one works in the business? Does he now work for his siblings? Does he have to buy them out? At what cost?
Those are just a few of the general issues without even talking about a person’s specific assets and situation! A Last Will and Testament is literally your last chance to let the world know what your testamentary is, what leave that opportunity to the hope you thought it as thoroughly as an attorney who does this daily?